Imagine, if you will, that future humans manage to travel to other worlds and find... more humans.
According to one University of Cambridge astrobiologist, that scenario may be more likely than you'd think.
In a new interview with the BBC's Science Focus magazine, an evolutionary palaeobiologist at the institution's Department of Earth Sciences named Simon Conway Morris declared that researchers can "say with reasonable confidence" that human-like evolution has occurred in other locations around the universe.
The core of Morris' belief comes from the theory of convergent evolution, which claims that, as Science Focus put it, "random effects eventually average out so that evolution converges, tending to produce similar organisms in any given environment." The magazine used the examples of flight, which "has evolved independently on Earth at least four times — in birds, bats, insects and pterosaurs."
In short, convergent evolution theory posits that evolution itself is a law of nature — and, as a logical endpoint, it's likely that evolution would operate the same way on different planets as it does here on Earth. In other words, it's theoretically possible that the blue and green alien humanoids you see on "Star Trek" could be, well, actually out there.
Morris isn't the only Cambridge man who believes alien life would have evolved in ways "analogous to a human."
Arik Kershenbaum, a zoologist at the rarified British institution, wrote a whole book about the concept of alien evolution.
"Because evolution is the explanatory mechanism for life everywhere," Kershenbaum told Quanta magazine earlier this year, "then the principles that we uncover on Earth should be applicable in the rest of the universe."
Kershenbaum argued that while it's "tempting" to envision alien races who don't have the same cultural interests humans have, such as philosophy and literature, we have to remember that they didn't just spring up out of a vacuum as advanced technological beings. Even alien lifeforms with greater technology than humans, Kershenbaum said, would have "evolved from a pre-technological species."
"If that pre-technological species went on to develop all the things that we have now, chances are that they were built on building blocks that served that social purpose — things like bonding between group members, transmission of information and useful ideas between group members," he told Quanta. "A pre-technological alien civilization could be singing and dancing and telling stories just like pre-technological human civilization did, because it serves the same purpose."
It's compelling to imagine other worlds where humanoid lifeforms, in Kershenbaum's wording, are "singing and dancing and telling stories" just like on Earth. And if the laws of evolution are as strong as Darwinists like Kershenbaum and Morris believe, that ups both our propensity for relating to and communicating with aliens — and, unfortunately, for warring with them as well.